Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Scoring big on sponsorship ROI models

Unfortunately I haven’t been able to watch the Australian Open Tennis these past few days because my set top box is playing up and 7 is the only channel not working.

Still I’ve been following the highs, the lows, and of course, the outfits.

Sponsors like Garnier and Kia pour big money into the tennis. And indeed, when done well, sports and entertainment sponsorships can be a really effective way to connect with consumers, borrow interest, reposition a brand, provoke consideration and all the rest.

Today the Australian Open released Roy Morgan Research which Adnews ran under the headline ‘Major sponsors scored big with the Australian Open this year’.

The research indicates:

Major tournament sponsors Kia and Garnier are heavily associated with the Australian Open by those who watch the tennis on TV (41% and 34%) and those who have attended professional tennis in the last 12 months (53% and 48%).

But what does this actually mean? Who cares if people have associated your brand with the tournament unless it translates into something meaningful? Given that these brands are all over the Open, surely this is a 'hygiene factor'?
While I’m sure the brands involved have their own activation strategies and specific measurement methodologies, this highlights the underlying tension between industry standard metrics and tailored measurement.

On the one hand, standardised ROI models mean that there is a shared language around results and comparative success. On the other hand, these results don’t always mean a great deal.

For the last few years, agencies have scrambled to develop standardized ROI models for brand entertainment.

I’ve seen (and probably created) my share of doozies based on dubious spreadsheet calculations and logo sizes.

But standard schmandard I say. Entertainment means a lot of things to a lot of different people. In addition, the way people engage with entertainment (with or without the help of brands) varies wildly.

We might be able to standardize the types of questions asked, but rarely the challenges we face and outcome we're striving for. And never the behavior we want to elicit.

I think I feel another post coming on.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Violating the aesthetic distance in the Australian blogosphere

This week has been one of drama in the local, vocal, and maybe even a little parochial, blogosphere. We've heard allegations of deceit and accusations of bad hairstyles. And we've witnessed a tearful plea from Zac Martin, defender of the digitally free and one Seth Godin.

This same week I happened to be re-reading David Mamet's book on the movie business Bambi vs Godzilla (I've written about it previously here). Specifically, I've been reading the chapter Aesthetic Distance.

In the context of film, aesthetic distance is "the name for that condition whose existence allows the audience to suspend its judgement (to in effect lower its guard) in return for receipt of a specialized experience."

It is in effect, the degree of our involvement in the story.

A "violation of the aesthetic distance" occurs when we are "yanked out of the drama"; when something ruptures our engagement with the story and in effect reminds us that this is a film, and they are actors. It's the point when we can no longer suspend our disbelief.

I think this week has seen both the creation and violation of aesthetic distance but I'm still looking forward to the next chapter in the Australian blogosphere.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Australian first: brand funded show in top ten

"Brand entertainment just doesn't rate"

Heard that before?

On Sunday, the 100% brand funded TV program King Gee Jack of all Trades broke into the top ten programs.

Sunday All People Top 20
1 Nine News Nine 1,397,000
2 Seven News Seven 1,339,000
3 One Day Cricket Aust V SA Game 2 Session 2 Nine 1,285,000
4 20 To 1 (R) Nine 1,216,000
5 Two And A Half Men (R) Nine 1,116,000
6 Flashpoint Nine 1,112,000
7 Hot Property Seven 1,068,000
8 Jack Of All Trades Nine 1,043,000
9 The Mentalist (R) Nine 960,000
10 The Rich List Seven 951,000
11 Eye For An Elephant ABC1 943,000
12 The Big Bang Theory Nine 929,000
13 Outback Wildlife Rescue Seven 901,000
14 One Day Cricket Aust V SA Game 2 Session 1 Nine 851,000
15 ABC News ABC1 782,000
16 Cold Case (R) Nine 762,000
17 M: Nine Months Seven 756,000
18 ABC News Up-Date ABC1 747,000
19 About A Boy (R) Ten 562,000
20 Bad News Bears Ten 529,000

Source: OzTAM. Rankings are for metro average audiences.

This is the highest ratings result achieved by a brand funded program in this market.

A kind of
Australian Idol meets Backyard Blitz, the program pits four Aussie tradies against each other in a contest to find the greatest tradie in the land.

King Gee Jack of all Trades is produced by Brand New Media and is now in its third series on Network Nine.

So who says brand entertainment doesn't rate?

*Brand New Media is part owner of Stickywood

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Taking the long view on brand entertainment

Recently, there’s been a lot of interesting discussion around the dichotomy between the short and long; between one off campaigns and an ongoing conversation.

I don’t agree that there isn’t room for social media marketing initiatives like the Whopper Sacrifice (233,000 odd people defriended at last count), but I’m definitely an advocate of longer term thinking espoused by people like Peter Kim, Mack Collier and Gavin Heaton. The kind that puts people, communication and social enterprise at the heart of business and builds value over time. Rather than the sort that relies on making a bit of noise every time a new flavour is released.

When it comes to brands creating entertainment, there are similar advantages in taking the longer term view.

The highlight of any marketer’s calendar is without a doubt, shooting the new TVC. There’s only one thing that’s sexier these days - making your own content.

This (along with staff turnover) is why marketing managers often want to launch a new campaign platform every year. It’s not because of ‘wear out’, or negative feedback from the trade, but because it’s the best damn part of the job. Compared to doing a sales roadshow, it’s a heap of fun and if it’s good, you can look smug at barbeques for weeks.

Obviously that’s not reason enough.

Marketers need to take the long view and build content platforms and entertainment assets that can evolve and grow over time.

This allows for innovation, experimentation and evolution; for fusion of content and product. It speaks to the reality that few get it right first time; that problems are rarely solved overnight; that learning is a constant and that big, bold ideas need time to sprout wings. For the beancounters, it can mean serious cost efficiencies.

Critically, it helps locate the asset at the core of business rather than quarantining it as a marketing plan output. And if done well, it can excite, engage and unite people across a business in a common goal.

Importantly, it enables the involvement of other people in story creation. This might be the contribution of the customer service team to the sales story, or the audience's involvement in the journey of a character.

Everyone wants to be known for something. So what do you want your brand to be known for? What asset might support that vision, lend it interest, connect people or maybe even do something nice for the world?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Do audiences expect their theatre to be brand free?

On the weekend I went to see famed Canadian director Robert Le Page’s production of Lip Synch as part of the Sydney Festival.

The production was 9 hours, punctuated by 5 intervals.

Despite this herculean duration, time seemed to float by. The production had a filmic like quality and a rich visual language. It was incredibly moving, inspired and at times very funny.

Lip Synch got me thinking about two things.

First, Le Page’s company Ex Machina receives a significant amount of government funding which means he can spend up to two years developing a work like this. This incubation period is a rare luxury in the world of theatre and one unimaginable in Australia’s climate.

It also flys in the face of the notion of beta testing which characterises a lot of creative development in the world of digital. New dramatic texts may have their own beta phase through creative workshops, dramaturg involvement and readings, but rarely do they incorporate the views, feedback and experiences of the audience.

Second, theatre is one arena where brand involvement still amounts to traditional sponsorship and rarely leaps the integration fence. Is it taboo or something that has gone largely unexplored?

One exception is Pot Noodle, a musical comedy that premiered at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Created by the smart folks at UK ad outfit Mother especially for their client Unilever, it was set in a Pot Noodle factory, and based on creative concepts that had underpinned years of advertising.

So the big question is, do audiences expect the theatre environment to remain ‘clean’?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Content marketing: what should we call it?

If you haven't stumbled upon it, Joe Pulizzi writes a very informative blog on the subject of marketing and content.

Right now there's an interesting discussion going on about finding a universal definition for what Joe calls 'content marketing'.

I avoid the term 'branded content' because it sounds like the brand bit has been pasted onto some random content. I like the word 'entertainment' because it suggests a connection with the audience.

That's why I use 'brand entertainment' (and because Stickywood is a brand entertainment consultancy business).

But this is too narrow to encompass everything you might stick under the umbrella of content marketing.

Sometimes we industry folks get hung up on semantics and buzz words (in protest Julian is putting a ban on 'social media' and Mark Earle and crew are having a B free January). But I think Joe's thought about client comprehension and education makes this cause a worthy one.

So what do you think? Join the discussion and have your say here.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Entertainment for convergence culture

Over at Faris’ place he’s posted a link to his insightful new preface for the Brazilian version of Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture.

It’s a first class summation of ‘participatory culture’.

Here's a taste:

"The convergence he is referring to isn’t the convergence of devices and suppliers that the telecoms and technology industry is obsessed by, but rather the convergence of modes; of production with consumption, of the mainstream with the underground."


"The story of participatory culture runs through reality TV, the cheap way to fill airtime that became a global phenomenon, through knowledge communities, fan fiction, Photoshop and cross platform, or transmedia, storytelling – anywhere there are gaps in the canonical narrative that people can rush to fill.”

So anyway, Faris also mentions Heroes as the first entertainment property created for convergence culture. Heroes first aired back in September 2006.

However I think I can proudly say that the Aussies pipped the Yankees at the post on this one.

In 2003, a then little known outfit called Hoodlum Entertainment created Fat Cow Motel for pay TV operator Austar and its TV, mobile and broadband platforms.

It was set in the rural town of Fat Cow, a small place where big things happened. Participants were invited to help solve a series of mysteries over 13 weeks to help keep the town alive.

In light of its success, it was picked up by ABC.

Hoodlum were quite simply ahead of their time.

You can take a look at this and other case studies here.

Hoodlum are now recognised as a global leader in interactive storytelling having recently scored a Bafta and an Emmy for their work on Spooks and Emmerdale respectively.

I write this not to gloat but because I have a professional crush on Hoodlum and hope I will work with Nathan and Tracey at some point.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Box Office Success: nobody knows anything

The weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald article (via The Guardian) on gender domination at the box office highlighted just how up its own arse Hollywood can be.

It seems 2007 was the year of the big bloke blockbuster; a time when There will be Blood and No Country for Old Men sang the success of men, and films with female leads generally stank (apart from Juno). In retaliation, Jeff Robinov at Warner Bros announced a ban on leading ladies.

This makes me think of three things. No four.

First, Jeff is a bit of a dill and I’m not sure how he ended up with the big Warner Bros gig.

Second, it reminds me of the famous William Goldman quote about Hollywood: Nobody knows anything.

Malcolm Gladwell gives the comment a bit more context in his New Yorker piece 'The Formula' - which looks at whether or not technology can help predict box office success (a bit like stock market charting).

Said Goldman:

“Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess.” One of the highest-grossing movies in history, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” was offered to every studio in Hollywood, Goldman writes, and every one of them turned it down except Paramount: “Why did Paramount say yes? Because nobody knows anything. And why did all the other studios say no? Because nobody knows anything. And why did Universal, the mightiest studio of all, pass on Star Wars? . . . Because nobody, nobody—not now, not ever—knows the least goddamn thing about what is or isn’t going to work at the box office.”

Third, I wonder why someone would completely jettison female leads based on a year of particularly bad films? Lucky good old Jeff isn’t running the local film industry as a lacklustre decade of Australian films would almost certainly mean us shutting up shop for good.

And fourth, this Nobody knows anything notion is what makes this business exciting. It’s the magic bit. Sure, you can interrogate, strategise, and research the bejeesus out of something, but sometimes an idea just works. Just because.

Twitter is encouraging an unhealthy obsession with 'the numbers'

I can't help but be slightly irritated by people on Twitter obsessing and boasting about their followers. The old 'Gee, I can't believe I've got 4,000 followers already' or the more annoying 'help @person get to 1,000 followers'. It's like turning up to a party saying 'Gosh, what a surprise I can't believe how tantalisingly fabulous I look in my Diane Furstenburg high waisted pant suit' or 'Please help @Corey Delaney attract more than 100 people to his party'.

(For a great post on the emphasis on raw numbers see this one from Mack Collier on authority).

So why are we actively promoting a meaningless view of metrics - the kind we're often trying to steer our clients away from? 

It's not that numbers aren't important in the right context. 

But an obsession with reach (vs impact) has been one of the barriers to marketers genuinely engaging with disciplines like social media, brand entertainment, experiential marketing and other 'softer' disciplines which are seen as not capable of delivering 'hard numbers' (either in terms of sales or people).

Too much emphasis on the body count diverts attention from the effect communication has on behaviour. It's much more about the what and when and less about the why. 

And in the case of Twitter, it's not even always about who.

If we're asking our clients to recalibrate their concept of metrics, we should do the same. 

p.s happy new year to my many followers.